Sunday, October 21, 2007

To turn a leaf - Does climate impact innovation?

This is for Kashikulu is a life long quest and I will tread very, very carefully least I vilify or justify ill intent or injustice. But I have wondered why people of color all around the world never quite seem to turn the leaf on poverty and underdevelopment.
From the Aborigines in mainland Australia, the vast population in Africa, the inhabitants of the slim islands of the Caribbean to some of the inner cities of North and Latin America- people of color generally experience a life of poverty or underdevelopment.

The Bemba have a proverb uulwele pamala uwolwa necibi (necessity is the mother of invention).
In researching whether climate has an impact in motivating innovation, I found that except in limited instances of coercion or scarcity of land, people of African descent live in fairly favorable climatic conditions. Robert W. July in his book - The history of the African people notes that -

"The history of mankind has always shown the deep mark of environment; put another way, man’s development can be seen as a struggle for freedom from the limitations of man’s surrounding, that might control and direct his environment rather than suffer its restraints…
The geographic location of Africa has contributed to its tropical climate which is warm but extreme only in certain locations and which lacks the violent fluctuations in temperature found for example, in North America. More significantly, Africa’s geographic position affects the pattern of rainfall which in turn has a profound influence on African ecology and history

Is it possible therefore, that the climatic conditions in Africa, Australia and the tropical islands of the Caribbean served as a lesser motivation for the innovation to develop the means to alleviate living conditions such as better housing, agriculture, transport etc. in pre colonial Africa and Australia or even free Haiti (first independent black republic in the Caribbean that gained independence in 1804).
The earliest history available on Sub Saharan Africa shows its prominent figure Shaka Zulu pillaging with primitive weaponry at the same time that, Beethoven is composing his best symphonies in Europe. On the other hand, the Africans forcibly removed from Africa into North America; through slavery are the cornerstones of mankind’s most invaluable innovations such as the clothes dryer by G.T. Sampson in 1892, first open heart surgery by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in 1893, automatic traffic lights by Garret A. Morgan in 1923 etc.
And so, with the majority of people of color in Africa, Australia and the Caribbean yet to have a clothes dryer in most homes, a surgeon for every 100 people or a traffic light at every intersection, Kashikulu continues to wonder, would a hostile climate in these places have changed anything?

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